"Deus-ex-machina" literally means "God by machine," when in (I believe) ancient Greek theater the conflict in a play would be resolved by God appearing and solving the problem, rather than the characters working it out for themselves.
Some of Columbo's traps are, in my opinion, a "deus-ex-machina" because the case is not really "solved" by Columbo.
I also wanted to mention that the ending to Murder by the Book does leave a void for me, too, but the endings to Mind over Mayhem or Death Lends a Hand leave an even bigger void.
I am more of a plot/clue fan than a character fan.
Thank you E.
So in other words...when there is a trap...like for example Negative Reaction...that would be a "deus ex machina" ending??
I'm getting confused!
Not necessarily...a subtle and well-developed trap can be very satisfying. In my post up above I mentioned some examples of good traps. But the traps in Mind over Mayhem or Prescription Murder were too obvious and unoriginal.
Thanks for asking what Deus Ex Machina meant Cassa...you asked about five minutes before I was going to ask. And thanks for the explanation E. Personally I don't mind traps or clues. Clues leave a very satisfying feeling, but traps are good for the enjoyment of seeing what Columbo is up to. A prefer a good clue to a bad trap and a good trap to a bad clue...
Well put Paul!
And E, I was just in the pool with my 17 year old son and I was telling him about the "deus ex machina" thingy...and the little smart aleck (I love him to death! ) told me I was pronouncing it totally wrong!!
Hey Cassa...In every post this week you have mentioned your pool...you are making me so jealous..I wish I had a pool..
Paul..I truly hadn't realized that!!! I am a bit absorbed in my pool!! It is my saving grace from the heat!! Come on over Paul......oh wait!...do you own a pair of bathing trunks?!?!?
I have to agree that the ending of
"Prescription Murder" is just too much
like a punch in the face, totally unsubtle.
"Negative Reaction" is beautiful because he maneuvers Galesko into thinking he is going to show Columbo how stupid he is ("you're a gem...not too bright!") but it turns out blowing up in his face.
In "Prescription", Dr Flemming is so unbelievably stupid and arrogant to say
"an accident could have been arranged", however, since this was a one-shot movie, the writers probably felt they could get away with it--it is still a good episode.
Actually I do own some trunks. I found them the other day. And to keep this Columbo related...episodes in which a pool plays a big part, Troubled Waters, The Most Crucial Game, ...others??
Yippee!! You got trunks!! Come on over,Paul!!
I don't know if you remember, Paul, but I actually started a thread on colsy's site about pools in Columbo. There were no responses!!! ....until Headache saved my face and wrote something goofy and Darth chimed in.
But to continue...pools were plot related also in Prescription: Murder, Friend In Deed and Deadly State of Mind. And pools could be seen in Candidate for Crime, Swan Song, A Stitch in Crime, Any Old Port in a Storm, Exercise in Fatality, Forgotten Lady, How to Dial a Murder....and the mother of all pools...Arthur Kennicut's pool in Death Lends a Hand.
Right, I remembered somewhere that someone had asked that. I just forgot who and where Thanks for filling me in Cassa.
Yeah, Paul, it was Joe who started it on colsy's site and I had the bird-brained idea to make it into a thread! I mean...what can you add to it??????? "Oh...I liked the pool in The Most Crucial Game" or "Didn't the pool water look so clear when Nadia Donner plunged to her death in A Deadly State of Mind?"....it was a dead post...
I enjoy clues *and* traps. For me, the enjoyment is watching Columbo wear down the murderer until s/he makes a mistake. Columbo always knows from the start who the murderer is, he just has to prove it and the best endings are where the criminal unwittingly proves it themselves. In this respect, I do not think it accurate to call 'trap' endings deus ex machinas, though I can see why the term has been used. Really, a machina ending has no relation to the rest of the plot and is parahcuted in e.g. if Columbo's boss suddenly appeared in the last 5 minutes with new evidence. Columbo's traps are part of the way he puts pressure on people. One of my favourites is Prescription: Murder, one that others have criticised. IMO, the trap works because it comes as a natural development of Columbo's tactics with Dr. Fleming. It is Fleming himself who creates the trap. In the brilliant psychotherapy scene, Columbo asks Fleming how he catches a murderer like him and Fleming gives him the answer - he can't. So Columbo switches his attention to his accomplice and uses Fleming's 'substitute girl/wig' trick to complete the trap. I thought this a seamless and satisfying ending because the murderer, in effect, traps himself.